NYMC Faculty Publications

Exploring Barriers to Abortion Access: Medical Students' Intentions, Attitudes and Exposure to Abortion

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Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare

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Public Health


OBJECTIVE: To describe medical student attitudes and exposure to abortion and pregnancy options counseling and influences of that experience on the provision of these services in their future practice. STUDY DESIGN: A survey was conducted of 3rd and 4th year medical students in 2019 at an US medical school in the Northeast. RESULTS: One hundred and sixty-two students participated in the survey (response rate = 46 %, 162/353). Only 27 % reported receiving at least one educational lecture on abortion during medical school. Fifty-eight percent reported clinical exposure to surgical abortion. About 2/3 reported being somewhat likely to provide abortions in the future, despite most identifying as "pro-choice." There was significant association between clinical exposure to surgical abortion and desire to include abortion in future practice (P = 0.03). The most common objections to performing future abortions were personal values, religious objection, and lack of training/experience. Most respondents did not feel comfortable providing counseling for abortion or adoption. Combined, only 14.4 % reported that they would be at least somewhat likely to apply to obstetrics-gynecology or family medicine residency programs, including programs with opportunities for such training. CONCLUSIONS: Earlier work has shown that medical student intentions to provide abortions prior to residency are better predictors of future abortion provision than during residency. Thus, medical school is a critical time for exposure to abortion and pregnancy options counseling. Such exposure and medical student attitudes are areas of research that should be further studied to contribute to the expansion and normalization of these services.